I woke up this morning to Joel Osteen on my television. Why does this guy scare the shit out of me? He has very non-offending features, save his teeth, which seem straight out of the mouth of some mutant horse. His words are tonal honey dripping slowly and coolly with syrupy anecdotes and parables. His voice took a hold of my barely conscious brain and wouldn't let go. I was just hypnotized. Maybe that's how this weirdo gets thousands upon thousands of people to listen to his recycled dreck every week in his humongo church. Maybe that's how he gets people to spend their hard earned dollars on his "Hope" books. (Because don't you know? Hope is a commodity now). I can't think of any other reasonable explanation for the fact that this guy is rich as fuck. He has nothing new or interesting to say. It's just the same old recycled bullshit about letting your light shine and forgiveness and counting your fucking blessings. Platitudes and cliches and gold-plated excrement for the masses. Don't the masses deserve better than that?
I'm all about leftovers. But after a while they start to go bad and stink up your refrigerator. That's how I feel about such gems as "turn the other cheek" or "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." I've heard that shit my entire life. I sat in over-crowded auditoriums and listened intently while over-inflated windbags preached the ancient word. I sweated my ass off in mid-August at the now defunct Vet Stadium while holier-than-thou ministers told me how to talk, how to act, how to live. I spent hours and hours learning about everything that was wrong inside my heart, how it was an unreliable thing, how it would lead me unto disaster and death. Eventually, I realized that it wasn't just my wicked heart that will lead me there. Everything will.
I read an article last week hilariously titled "Your risk of death and disease". Ummm, isn't the risk of death and disease the same for everyone? 100%. It doesn't matter if I lose 20 pounds or stop smoking or quit drinking or exercise 30 minutes a day or live a holy life. I'm going to die and it's probably going to be awful. Sure, our choices can effect the quality of our life, making it better or worse. But in the end, it's slabs for everyone. I realize that human beings like to pretend the way that children do. We like to pretend that we have a modicum of control over everything, over our lives, over our eternity.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to visit cemetaries. There was a weird draw about these resting places for the dearly departed. We'd read the gravemarkers and ponder who these people were, what could have killed them. There's not a sadder sight to be seen than a crumbling tombstone, losing it's grip on forever. I could almost feel the hand of the dead gripping my leg as if to say, "Remember me". But the truth is, except for the extraordinary few who've made a name for themselves in cinema, sports, or literature, we will all be forgotten.
I guess in a way the Joel Osteens of the world serve an important purpose. On top of providing moral leadership and guidelines, they give people a sense of purpose, a sense that what they are doing matters in the long run. I have to admit that the more I give up the idea of God, of a spiritual world outside the realm of what I can see and touch and feel, the more futile I feel my actions become. When I think of all the human beings who have lived before me, who will live after, of the evolutionary process, the vast universe with it's solar systems and black holes and dark matter, the smaller I feel. And the smaller I feel, the less likely it seems that my words and actions will have any real impact on the world at large. It's terribly hard to believe in the butterfly effect in the context of a vast, godless universe.
19 hours ago